Monday, February 29, 2016

Has Philosophy Lost It's Way?

An interesting article in the New York Times. (Thanks to David Agronin for the pointer).

The Problem of Evil and the Free Will Defense

From guest blogger, Ezekial. 

When considering the problem of evil, a common answer is that the granting humans the free will and moral agency to make moral choices is necessary to bringing about the greatest good or perfection, and that makes evil a logical necessity of granting humans this freedom. In this view, it must be the case that it is at least possible that the amount of freedom god gives us is just the right amount.

Being in the “sweet spot” might mean that we lack the freedom (of will or action) for gratuitous evil or capacity to cause suffering, but we have enough freedom to do enough damage to make our morally good actions significant.

Consider a world in which god gave us more freedom and power, such that we can cause more pain and suffering than we do now. Perhaps we have the abilities of super-rape, murder, or the power to harm people more so than we do now. It could just be that people are more apt or willing to use the powers to do moral evils than they do in the current world. Certainly we can imagine a world in which there is more suffering as a result of human conduct, and that should be reason enough to believe that god did not give us too much freedom.

Now consider a world in which we have less freedom, such that we either don’t have the capacity for raping, murdering, and other tier 1 moral sins, or we are just predisposed against those actions so much so that it is very unlikely for a person to be moved to such actions. In this world there would be less or little suffering compared to reality, but the argument could be made that lacking the freedom to commit these evils makes the good less meaningful. God allows people into heaven because they are good, more or less. So if people don’t really have to make choices between good and evil because they are always good and have to very much against their nature to commit evil, it doesn’t make sense for god to arbitrate people to heaven or hell, because people lack the sufficient moral agency to be worthy of such a judgement. It would be like God making everyone without the capacity for evil and then rewarding them for not being evil.

There are many other arguments regarding the evil in the world that can be leveled against god, but it should at least seem plausible that god gave humans the right amount of freedom because we can think of possible worlds that are worse as a result of having more or less freedom than our world. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Verifiability and Arguments for God's Existence

From guest blogger, Casey.

Many of the arguments we have gone over for the existence of god, whether a priori or a posteriori do not seem verifiable. For instance, Anselm’s argument that god is the greatest being thought of, to exist is greater than to not exist, and therefore god must exist, doesn’t seem falsifiable. It could be the case it would for some reason be greater not to exist, or it just might be a false string of logic. The cosmological arguments also seem improvable. We have not yet observed an unmoved mover, a completely necessary being, or anything that can be considered perfect, in the universe (we have observed remnants of a first cause [i.e., the Big Bang] but what caused that?). The teleological argument stems from observing nature, but it is still inductive and cannot be observed directly. No one has ever seen god constructing things out in nature (one might argue Adam and Eve had, but I am not going to go into biblical arguments). So what is the big deal? Plenty of folks are strict rationalists?

I am not really sure if this necessarily will lead to a serious problem, but the fact is that we will never be able to test these theories, or at least not without some sort of miracle in science. I am questioning if some sort of justification that will never lead to knowledge can be used to fully justify a belief. Since there is always a slim chance things might be different, one cannot be 100% sure of his/her belief. This does not mean one is not justified in believing a certain proposition based on unverifiable justification. I just question if one can be fully certain. Maybe this is why so many religions put so much emphasis on faith.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Some Thoughts About the Cosmological Argument

From guest blogger, Shao.

I think the biggest controversy about the cosmological argument is: Do we have to have an explanation for everything that exists? This question can lead to many small questions, such as do we need an independent being to create all the dependent beings? Or, can all the dependent beings just exist as a group without an independent being? First of all, I think there is nothing wrong to assume that all the things that we know (water bottle, cars, planets and stars.etc) came to existence by the cause of some other things (which I think we can scientifically prove how the water bottle, cars, planets and stars came into existence). I think the problem here is not the causal relationship, but our lack of ability to conceive something that is infinite. Sure, we understand that when we say something is infinite, it means such thing (pi for instance) will go on forever. Then the point is, what is forever? Since we already have proven scientifically that the universe had a beginning and it was the big bang. Then the problem is: what's before the big bang? Is big bang the start? And if it is, then it means the universe has a beginning and thus it is not infinite. So although we can easily understand that every physical thing around us is dependent, which it does not create itself, we cannot perceive that such casual relationship goes on infinitely. I therefore disagree with the argument that "if we've explained the existence of every member of a collection we've explained the existence of the collection-there's nothing left over to be explained." In other words, I think the problem with this argument is that it assumes that all dependent beings can exist as a collection without a first cause. Well, first, we only know that dependent things do not exist in a loop, which means that the grandson does not cause the existence of the grandfather. Therefore, it seems that we can never use logic to find an explanation for the series because this series goes on infinitely. Furthermore, even if things do miraculously cause each other's existence in a loop, do they also require a spark to start the loop? And even if such a loop does not need a start,then is this loop itself an independent being? It seems that our logic does not work perfectly once we arrive at the problem of the first cause, which I think we always need to make exceptions to our premises. Whether we think there is an independent being or not, we just can't make a valid argument.